God sent me a Grand Invitation. It was to a banquet in my honor. To a table He set with beauty from His pure heart of love, thinking of me.
He was excited as He sent out the invitation. Excited that I would come and we could sit feasting together talking of everything and anything. He yearning to tell me stories I’d never heard. Hoping I would tell Him the dreams I’d never shared before. So He sent me this beautiful invitation covered with His hope and longing and love.
It came to me on a day that was dark. In the middle of a noisy storm. And I, busy closing windows and shutters. Busy listening to the news on how to prepare for what was coming. I, busy crying out in prayer for God to save us from the storm, didn’t even look at the invitation and then forgot all about it.
Until one day I looked up and caught a glimpse of a beautiful corner sticking out from underneath a stack of problems. Curious, I pulled on it. And in wonder at its loveliness, I opened it. The scent of heaven’s flowers came rolling out as I tugged the invitation out from the envelope. I felt the longing of Jesus’ love for me surround me. I felt His sincere desire that I come to the feast He laid for me. He was waiting every morning for me to arrive. Morning after morning had gone by while He faithfully waited.
The day I finally showed up began a joyous conversation with the creator and designer of everything. The One who knows me most yet still loves me best. The food He offered tasted like nothing I’d ever had before. I savored it and pondered looking into Jesus’ face, into His laughing eyes as He waited to hear what I would say.
We talked about so many things. I would ask a question then He would begin a conversation about something completely different. His words filled me inside. In places I didn’t know were empty. I had a glorious morning with Jesus. He didn’t even mention the current storm. He didn’t even seem to notice that it was there. Being with Him was so absorbing I didn’t notice it either. And as I turned to go back to my day, I heard Him speak with such longing in His voice. He said two things that didn’t seem to fit together, yet I knew they were both true. And they’ve changed my life.
He said, “Take me with you as you go—I never leave you.” And then He spoke the invitation, “I’ll be waiting for you right here. Come back in the morning and we’ll feast again.”
And now in the midst of the turmoil, I don’t really see a storm. It appears as a blip in time and space where the cosmos goes on forever. Where the majesty of God is so compelling I cannot look away to bother seeing what noisy thing is behind me.
His love for me, for each one of us is complete and all we need. He has come issuing a grand, glorious invitation to come close, closer than we’ve ever been. He is longing for our presence. He is waiting.
My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
First Love Kari Jobe
There have always been only two stories: the one that God speaks and the one that darkness tells. Each day I get to choose which one I will focus on. Which one I will believe and live by. God’s story is harder to hear. I have to lean in to know what He’s saying. I have to dust off my Bible and read the story of hope and love that He brought generations ago. I have to remind myself that He doesn’t lie. That He doesn’t change. That His story lasts forever. Darkness tells me a different story. It prophesies death and destruction. Today this story screams loudly everywhere I look.
There are also only two kingdoms and I get to choose, each day, where I will live. Which one I will align my thoughts, my words, and my prayers with—which one will fuel my life? Whose words, Satan or God’s, will I believe? Whichever words I believe are true are the ones that begin to create in my life.
In the beginning, just after life exploded in beauty upon the earth, God’s enemy entered the garden to change the destiny of creation. He came armed with a lie. A lie that questioned what God had said to Adam and Eve. A lie that challenged God’s words and spoke of a different future to entice Eve into believing God had deceived her. That surely they would not die if they ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Surely they would only be like God. This story, this lie, was a rational one. One that offered an outcome that seemed reasonable, obvious. Eve believed it bringing death to us all.
Today, I hear two stories: one of evil taking over the world and one of Jesus becoming king. My choice is as basic as Eve’s. Do I trust and hope in who God says He is for me or do I believe the power of darkness as demonstrated around me in violence, hatred, and fear? Who do I really believe has control of the outcome?
I don’t understand either story very well. The dark prophecies have many variations but always result in anger and fear. The words of Jesus, who is the Host of Heaven’s armies and our returning king, result in peace and hope. Beyond reason, I choose Jesus’ story. Even when I don’t understand. Even when I can see no evidence. My hope is not in what I can see, my hope is in who God is and what He has promised. What He gave up to have me call Him Father. My hope is in His word that does not change. That says He’s given me a future. That every thought He has for me is good. That He is the One who cares for me. Deeply. With extravagance. Completely unfairly. He loves me beyond what good or bad I’ve ever done. He does not lie, and He does not change.
The story God tells me is that I am His wildest dream. That every color, every animal, every bit of singing music in creation is for me. Given so I would see Him in His wondrous glory and begin to know Him. His story is one of outrageous sacrifice, offering His precious, beloved son as a ransom to ensure my freedom from the kingdom of darkness. To ensure I could become a child of God, a friend of God with nothing standing between us. What an absurd love. He didn’t wait until I was good or even intending to be good. He took all that I was not, and all raging rebellion that I was, and went to the cross for me.
That story is the one that ignites my faith to believe whatever He says is true. That He is my protection, my hope, my song. Convincing me the noise, the smoke, the violence of God’s enemy in my nation and other nations is a lie. That somewhere, somehow, God will arise and His enemies will be scattered. That some way the kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our God. That the earth, its fulness, and everyone in it is the Lord’s because He made them. He does not lie. He does not change.
One day while I was waiting on God, I saw the answer to a prayer I’d been praying for a long time. I was so excited, yet as I got up the next morning I wondered if what I saw was a promise or if it was real. Was it happening now or was it going to happen in the future? I asked the Lord, “Is this real or is it a promise?” His words came almost immediately, rolling loudly through my heart. He said, “What’s the difference?” Like He didn’t know. Like they were the very same thing to Him. Telling me clearly that when He promises a thing it is real. To God, all His promises are real. His word is forever true. It’s up to me to believe it. To speak it. To pray it. To stand and say out loud, as a praise, what He has said. To let it live large in my thoughts. To offer thanks, in faith, that He never lies. He is always good. His mercies are never ending. And He loves me with an unbelievable, unending love.
The difference between the two stories being told today is that one is true and the other is a lie.
Please turn off the news, find your Bible and start talking to the One who loves you more than life. I suggest starting in Psalms or John. God’s heart for you and His story of your future will capture you and give you hope for each new day.
2 Cor 1:20 NIV
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
Numbers 23:19 ESV
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Is 55:11 NIV
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.
Psalm 23-24 NKJV
Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints!
For the Lord preserves the faithful, and fully repays the proud person.
Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
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This morning the Lord spoke to me about my default position in a crisis. He let me know that what I choose is very, very important.
God is the only God who, when I look into His eyes, I understand who I am. He gives me a revelation of how greatly He values me. How treasured I am. He makes me alive. His life fills me with love, with light, with hope, with joy. I don’t get that when I look in the mirror. I only see what’s wrong, what’s missing, and what’s broken.
When I come to Him, He does not show me what’s wrong or missing. He simply begins to fill me with Himself and there is nothing wrong or missing or broken in Him. He shows me I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Beauty for my ashes. The oil of joy for my sadness.
When I come to Him, He does not show me what’s wrong or missing or broken in you, either. He shows me His great joy and delight in you. He shows me His heart that is huge with love for you. He shows me His great faith that you will come closer, with a whole heart, to know Him. Love believes all things. There is faith in God. He planted it in us. His faith that we would respond to Him is what led Jesus to the cross. His compelling love is why Jesus laid down His life so the Father would have His heart’s delight, which is us. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son.
When I’m challenged in my life, my default response is to start searching my heart, listing my failures, recounting my sins, seeking my place of repentance. I cannot see His heart. I do not know His word about me or my situation. I cannot feel His love. Condemnation and confusion become my food. In a crisis, I rarely see His heart for others. Usually, strife and frustration come into my relationships. Peace and joy flee. This position of looking to my self, leaning on my strength or understanding is not God’s way for me when I am in trouble.
My other default in a crisis is to look for an enemy. I begin looking for what the enemy is doing in my life. Questioning, searching him out, focusing on him instead of Jesus. Stepping off the narrow path of God’s leading, I venture into a murky, smelly swamp looking for the evil force I know is hiding to ambush me. I think if I can identify him, I can conquer him. Shushing God when He tries to get my attention saying, “ Just a minute, can’t you see I’m busy here? I’ll be right with you,” as I continue my quest for understanding the swamp.
Neither one of these responses leads to life. The only response I should ever have is to run into my heavenly Father’s arms. To seek Jesus. To wait for the still small voice to speak. Because I cannot know He’s working in me through the crisis if I do not go to Him. Sometimes He wants to teach me strategy. Sometimes it’s faith and patience. Sometimes it’s to reveal how big and good He is. Or to show me how much authority I have in Jesus. And sometimes He wants to tell me something about Him I never even dreamed of before. Something beyond my understanding.
I forget that everything in my life is an invitation to a conversation with God. He waits for me to show up. To confirm I’m choosing Him. That my heart is focused on His heart. That He matters to me. That I will listen. I will wait humbly before Him for power from on high. Submitting to God and resisting the enemy driving him out. The Father sees in the darkness so I don’t really need to. I simply need to listen for God to tell me what I’m to do. What I’m to resist. What I’m to cast out. Where I need repentance. Where I need worship.
I can only get what I need from spending time with God. His answers are bigger than what’s inside of me. He is of heaven and I have no frame of reference for what’s in Him. I can only see what’s in Him when I stop, ask, seek, and knock. My need is a temporary affliction. His answer builds a permanent, unshakable foundation under my feet. Someone said that Jesus was a master at changing the conversation. The apostles would ask about something and Jesus would start talking about a completely different topic. He does that to me. I have a need. I ask for a provision. He starts talking about flowers, or a city on a hill, or water faucets.
I have to turn the care of my situation over to Him before I can let my curiosity loose to follow His new topic. When I seek to see Him, looking down this narrow path, I look up and He’s there. When I see Him, I see everything I need, every single thing is in Him. HE is what I need. And He dwells in me. I have everything I need, I just didn’t see it or believe it or experience it. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of the unseen. With faith and patience, I inherit and experience what is already mine because He is mine. I am my beloved’s and He is mine.
This mystery of you and I is a quest to find and unravel clues of our uniqueness. To discover God in the evidence of His intention–in nature, in creation, in us.
Our God is a spiritual being and so are we, but we don’t always see how to navigate the land of spiritual life. Malevolent forces push us, stealing truth. Shifting our focus, stealing the wonder of who God is so we never find the wonder of who we are. Darkness batters us and we cannot see the power of God. We cannot see the power of us. The power of goodness, of love, of faith, of beauty. The loudest, most angry, manipulative people are the ones who are the emptiest of God’s beautiful truth.
We, the seers, are also called to be the Speakers of this truth. Created with power to speak to others of their light and life and blessing and call it forth. It is only dormant. It is not dead. Like the dry bones that became an army, empty people are filled with beautiful seeds of potential. All the seeds God planted in them can be watered by us. We can speak to the beautiful things we see in another. Speak life. Whisper God’s secrets of love and glory and wonder that is in them – that is their true design. We can ask God for His words to pour over them. The water from heaven that flows through our mouths, drips from our lips, is powerful to raise people from the dead into an army of lovers of God. We are in a love war. A spiritual battle. For the unveiling of glory, wonder and beauty in the earth.
When all we see is what’s missing. Lacking. Wrong in another, then that’s all they can see too. We must be believers in them. In God’s purposes for them. We must see beyond, into God’s truth for them. And speak it. We speak this mystery of their beauty to them in words of blessing. We speak it with them and for them to God in prayer. Love demands we act on their behalf.
The ministry of reconciliation is more than issuing an invitation, it is standing on behalf of the one and speaking light and life and blessing until the daystar rises in them. Until they see with new eyes. Until they rise in newness of life. Until the glory rises on them in power as they become the sons and daughters of their Heavenly Father, Abba.
Jealousy, another malicious force that keeps us from seeing the beauty in another, is a manifestation of fear. It is the core fear that we are nothing. That we do not matter. It lives loudly and drives mercilessly because we do not see and do not know our own wonderful design. It’s based on the ugliest of lies.
We are each, full of a unique specialness that is ours alone. The true mystery quest is to find God so we can see ourselves in our true glory and wonder. So we can understand we own this specialness, then we have power to shine.
We can help each other on this journey. We can call forth the light in each other. Ignore the dark, broken, unfinished parts and speak God’s truth that grows big and heals, finishes and completes life in us. In our inward parts. God’s truth that expands outward, filling the earth with glory. Love. Beauty.
God’s story is glorious, majestic, powerful and full of life that cannot die. It is for us and in us. His glory touches us. Fills us. And we are glorious, too. Everything you need to see about the mystery of you is in Jesus’ eyes. Seek His face and you will see the glory, beauty, and truth that is you. Never forget that you are God’s wildest dream and He always delights in you.
Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realizing you were the prisoner. Max Lucado
God has worked in my heart for years on this. He reminds me of people I have, intentionally, forgotten. People who hurt me or offended me. People I didn’t want to remember. People I didn’t want to forgive. People who made me put my hands on my hips and stamp my foot and say, “they don’t deserve my forgiveness!”
When I gave God permission to create a clean heart in me, when I asked, even sought Him, for a whole heart He came in and started rooting around opening boxes and dirty little bags I didn’t know were there.
I have a great capacity for ignoring ugly and painful things. Whenever I am overwhelmed by them I pretend they aren’t there. I push them into a far corner of my heart and walk away. Once I’ve done my stamping dance of unforgiveness, I never look back. Until God.
Until the day Jesus came knocking on the door of my heart wanting to come in and be closer to me. He asked to come share a meal and to be friends. He asked to be invited to the inside of me. It was years before I trusted Him enough, before I was brave enough, to let Him into the place of my hiddenness. I’ve come to see that while I was ignoring pain and ugly, fear nibbled at the edges and made me ignore God’s call as well.
Jesus stands at the door of the hearts of his followers. He knocks on the door of those of us who’ve said, Yes, at some time in our lives. He patiently waits to be invited inside. Waits for us to choose more. To bravely open the door.
Following Jesus into forgiveness is a big thing. As a model for walking in love, Jesus was pretty much unrivaled.
“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” Jesus
On most days, I am not like Jesus. Oh heavenly Father, forgive my dark heart that does not want forgiveness for my enemies but wants to call down fire upon them instead. That wants to see them pay for their sins against me. My dark heart that desires vengeance for the pain they brought into my life.
And I see Jesus, not raising a sound against those persecuting Him, spitting on Him, wounding Him and bringing Him great mockery and pain.
I hear Him say, “No one takes my life. I freely give it.”
I see His heart, His trust in His Father’s intentions. His trust that the future of His obedience is glorious because He knows His Father’s heart toward Him. And He knows if there had been any other way to forgive the world, Jesus would have been spared the cross.
As Jesus hung on the cross, He forgave all those who had put Him there. He asked the Father to forgive them, too. I believe it was because He saw the Father’s heart for those created in His image. Those He wanted to call sons and daughters. Those He longed to hear cry, “Abba, Father.”
Out of this great love, forgiveness was born and redemption came alive. As He forgave us, as He released our sins from us, as He chose to not hold our sins against us, so we go and do likewise.
Bless those who spitefully use you.
It’s bigger than ‘committing’ them to God because that feels like permission to hold onto a dark little part of me that wants them to get what’s coming to them. Thinking surely God will discipline or punish them for what they’ve done.
When I bless my enemies, I must come to God with an open heart and open hands asking Him to richly pour out His love upon them. Asking Him to pour out His mercy, hope, grace, and goodness upon those who brought the greatest pain into my experience. Only then do I understand the heart of God who wants no one to perish. Who showers goodwill on all.
To share in the sufferings of Christ is, perhaps, to die to my heart of vengeance. To fall in love with the Father and want His love and kindness that leads to repentance to be experienced by those I see as my enemies.
To follow Jesus I must forgive. The Way of Jesus is a path of continual forgiveness of my sins. Of the sins of others. The Way of Jesus leads to life—to freedom from carrying the burden of others’ sins.
God cares deeply about our wounds. We are precious to Him. He gathers our tears in bottles, but He doesn’t see my enemy as an enemy. It is not His goodness in me that cries out for vengeance and judgment on the ones who hurt me. It is anger. It is the voice of pain and injustice crying out to be heard. To be seen. To be vindicated.
Am I not willing to take the hurt and give it to God so another can be set free from the flames of hell? Set free from the torment of the true enemy of God, the devil, and his lies? So another could be led to repentance by the kindness of God in me and through me?
Or must I demand every last coin owed from the one who wounded me?
Am I choosing to not walk into the glory before me but stay in the shadow of the earthly realm where an eye for an eye rules?
The way of Jesus demands purity of heart. At some point, He shows me what I can’t take into the kingdom. Things I carry that don’t fit through the door. Things that bring death not life.
Father, forgive them, please don’t hold their sins against them. They don’t know what they’re doing. Father, forgive me for holding their sins against them. For demanding they pay when Jesus has already paid the price for all our sins.
To fully receive forgiveness, I must walk in forgiveness. Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.
I cannot walk in the kingdom without forgiving. I think He let me visit so I would get a glimpse of His glorious intentions. Or maybe when I was too young to know better, He allowed me safe passage for a bit. But as I follow Jesus, He begins to speak more seriously to me. He lets me know I cannot inhabit or inherit my place in the kingdom without forgiving people. I cannot hold their sins against them. I am not allowed to withhold forgiveness. Jesus’ sacrifice brought enough forgiveness into the world to cover us all. If I follow Him. If I love Him, I will see this sacrifice was enough. Enough for me to forgive and bless my enemies because when I was an enemy of God, He forgave me. He said, “Father, forgive her, she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Do not hold her sins against her. Hold them against me. Let my sacrifice be enough to make her whole, free, and alive.”
Forgiving my enemies makes room in their lives for God to come in and destroy the foundations of the devil’s work. It allows me to speak freedom and life and light over people, families, cities, and communities.
Help us to be people of forgiveness, Lord. People of patience, hope, and compassion. A living testimony of God’s love. Show me how to pray for all people, that your compassion and kindness would come to them. Show me how to be a person of reconciliation introducing others to Jesus. To Abba Father.
Give me a heart for all those You love but I don’t. The unloveable ones who frighten me, who hurt me, who criticize and misjudge me. The ones who accuse me, even of things I never did. The ones who throw rocks because they don’t understand me or are jealous. The ones who mock me because it’s easier than getting to know me. Help me, Father, to stay nestled in your heart, feeling the beat of your love for all. Help my heart to beat that way, too.